How do children settle into the Montessori Environment?
Joining a Montessori Preschool is an exciting time in your child’s development and education.
Settling into the Montessori environment is a process characterised by three stages of development, which Doctor Maria Montessori termed: ‘Normalisation.’
Normalisation is a natural process that children work towards as they learn to focus and concentrate their energy for sustained periods of time, whilst also finding satisfaction in their work.
This process is unique to Montessori Education, as it is through work with the Montessori materials in the prepared environment, that children learn to develop a love of work.
As children settle into the Montessori environment, they progress through the three stages of normalisation. Each stage builds on the one before it, as the child slowly masters the skills of concentration, love of work, and self-discipline.
Stage One: Safe, Secure and Connected
The first step towards settling a new student into the Montessori environment is to help the child feel safe, secure, and connected.
This begins on the first day, when the new student is introduced to the daily routine, structure of the Montessori classroom, and their fellow students.
During the first few weeks, the new child will be closely shadowed by their Teachers to ensure that they are gently guided through the daily routine, bond with their peers, and gain an introduction to the Montessori materials.
The most popular Montessori activities for new students come from the Practical Life Curriculum. These activities, such as spooning and pouring, show the results of work in a short period of time. This encourages children to build confidence and a love of work.
During this first stage of normalisation, the child will slowly become familiar with the routines of the classroom, and exercising their independence through freedom of choice and movement.
It is not unusual for a child in the first stage of normalisation to work with a limited number of introductory Montessori materials. This is a sign that that are in the early stages of developing their ability to concentrate, which is required for working with more advanced Montessori materials.
A child has progressed through the first stage of normalisation once they are able to work through the Montessori work cycle unaided.
Stage Two: Mastering Routines
In the second stage of normalisation, children will work confidently through the Montessori work cycle and participate in the classroom routine.
During the work cycle, a child in the second stage of normalisation will typically move quickly from one Montessori activity to the next.
They seldom repeat an activity, and are not deeply engaged in the learning process, as they are continuing to develop the skills required for concentration and critical thinking.
During the second stage of normalisation, the child is strongly focused on becoming a contributing member of the classroom community. Students learn to respect one another, care for their classroom environment, and pack away their materials after use.
Indeed, most students in the Montessori classroom are in the second stage of normalisation. These students can make constructive choices and follow the routines of classroom life. However, they are yet to develop the inner discipline required to focus on Montessori activities for extended periods of time.
Students in this stage of development benefit from frequent Montessori presentations, lessons, and instructions.
Stage Three: Experiencing Concentration
The final stage of settling into the Montessori environment is characterised by a child’s ability to focus intently on one activity for an extended period of time, and then move on the next activity, without disrupting the work of others.
This is the final step of normalisation, and marks the child’s ability to achieve periods of deep concentration.
Students who have achieved normalisation are characteristically patient, focused, and respectful of all things. They have learned to exercise self-discipline, work collaboratively with others, and choose to engage in work because it fulfills their desire to achieve greater understanding.
While the process of normalisation may seem complex, it is a natural part of becoming a contributing member of the Montessori classroom community.
According to Montessori Theory, it is through normalisation that children come to develop a love of work, and begin to develop their sense of self. As Doctor Maria Montessori stated: “Man constructs himself through work.”
Through the Montessori materials, interactions with their environment, and the guidance of their teachers, children will gradually acquire the skills and character traits of normalisation in their own time. Each child’s journey towards normalisation is as unique, and there is no set timeframe to achieve normalisation.
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